This is an ongoing tale of Alan and Jo's exploits in Austin, TX. Alan hopes there will be plenty of tasty beer involved, while Jo hopes to find lots of interesting aircraft.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Here's a few things I have observed lately.

First up, here's a picture I have been wanting to take for a long time, ever since I first saw this. I was stopped in traffic on I-35 so grabbed the opportunity. They transport new trucks by piling them on top of each other and driving the bottom one. I looked as I went past afterwards, they're attached by wooden blocks, bolted on to the truck frame underneath. There's four trucks next to me here, and there's three more in a separate batch up ahead.

Meanwhile, due to a slight mix-up in Cabelas the other week, I walked out of there with a box of shotgun shells that was a little more perky than the ones we usually use. They'd wrongly marked the shells with a sale price - or put them in the wrong place - I don't really know, but they ended up having to give me a $140 box of shells for $59! Now, our usual shells have 1 and 1/8 oz of shot pellets inside and a certain amount of powder. These expensive chaps (on the left) had 1 and 1/4 oz and some kind of souped up powder in there, and look at the amount of brass they need to contain all this extra energy! The normal shell on the right is a lot lighter. And yes, you can really feel the difference when you let one of these off. Packs a lot of punch. We actually ended up trading most of the ones we had left with Neil for some normal rounds as we like our shoulders without gunstock-shaped holes in.

Lastly, how about these Creme Eggs! I saw some in the garage over Easter and grabbed a couple after making sure they were actually imported from Cadbury UK and not some nasty Hershey's knockoff. (Big difference, you know.) I looked at them and thought they had got smaller since I last saw them.

Then on Easter Sunday, it was Alex's birthday and Tamzin and Allan had invited us to his party, so we were over there for the afternoon. Cara was just back from the UK where she had been doing a supply run and amongst lots of other UK foods, had brought us back an Easter egg! Thanks, Cara! And it happened to be a Creme Egg one... which contained normal UK eggs.

They don't look a lot different here I know, but the UK egg on the left feels noticeably bigger and heavier in your hand than the import egg on the right. (The battery is a AA for size comparison, no, we don't eat those). I am a sad git and weighed them, the UK egg is 42g and the import is 36g. So obviously Cadburys are keeping back as much of the good chocolate as they can, or trying to save on shipping costs, or both.

So if you see green on the foil, it's an import, and I guess you can feel good about eating so much less chocolate, in fact it must be good for you ;-)

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Diane's Visit - San Antonio and Fredericksburg

For Diane's second week here, we had a couple of quieter days mixed with some days in which we travelled further.

Monday saw us driving down to San Antonio, to go and see the Alamo. It's obligatory, you know, and every visitor will be shown this place, they check your passport on the way out of the country to make sure you have been.

Of course we then dropped down to the Riverwalk and wandered about, before getting some barbeque for lunch in the County Line.

Tuesday saw us in Austin Zoo, which was fun. We went home to cook curry, as Tamzin and Allan were coming round to eat it that night. Tamzin brought an army's worth of samosas which were delicious.

On Wednesday we drove out to Enchanted Rock which is a granite batholith way out in the Hill Country, surrounded by the normal kind of hill with trees on. You can walk up the Rock and get great views. It was very windy up there.

We went into Fredericksburg after that and had lunch in one of the German restaurants there where Diane had what was supposed to be a bowl of chili but was in fact beef stew, there was so little heat in it. It's bizarre that nobody cooks anything even remotely hot around here. I think I am going to start carrying a bottle of tabasco wherever I go. Diane did enjoy it though.

We detoured via Luckenbach on our way to Johnson City. There were many bikers there. Luckenbach's population was a lot more than 3 that afternoon.

On Thursday we wandered around Austin and South First street, after seeing the rescued animals in the Zilker Science and Nature center. Diane took us out for a meal Thursday night, in the Texas Roadhouse, where we all had some variation of steak.

Now I am eating salad; all Diane and I have done for two weeks is eat! Still, I think we have all had a great time, I hope Diane will come again!

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Diane's Visit - Houston

Alan took Thursday and Friday off, so we took a trip down to Houston. Diane wanted to see NASA, and we wanted a curry!

There was a huge thunderstorm parked over Houston when we arrived, which scuppered any plans of seeing anything much Thursday afternoon, so we checked into our hotel and crashed out for a bit. The rain eventually stopped, which let us out to investigate the Houston Ginger Man for a couple of beers.

We finally got our long-awaited curry too, which was really very good. Why can't anyone sell a decent curry in Austin?!?!?!

Friday was spent at NASA. There's another blog post about this so let's have some different photos here. We all enjoyed going round the facility, it's a really good day. We were tired at the end of it though.

This is the control room where they managed all the Apollo missions from in the 1960s.

Here's a moon buggy. I'm on the moon!

We got back on Saturday a bit after lunchtime and I scooted straight off to Tamzin's house to help her prepare for the huge party she was throwing that evening. Diane and Alan joined me later, armed with a keg of beer, woo-hoo!

The party was a James Bond themed one and seemed to go pretty well. Alan was performing bartender duties and made sure everyone had enormous vodka martinis.

At the beginning of the evening, Rusty the balloon pilot called me and asked if I'd crew for her the next morning. Just as well I was driving then so I hadn't had any beer at this point!

Up at 05:30 for the drive to Round Rock, where five of us helped Rusty get airborne.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Diane's Visit - Rodeo

As the Austin Rodeo was on during Diane's visit, we had to go!

The rodeo is kicked off by the singing of the National Anthem.

Six-year-old kids ride sheep in the Mutton Bustin' event. It's hilarious to watch.

Calf roping.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Diane's Visit - Austin

My friend Diane came to visit for two weeks, which is why I haven't been updating this blog much - we have been way too busy showing here about! So here are some photos from her time in Texas.

Here's the view from the Iguana Grill, where we met with Tamzin and her family, and her friend Alison who was also visiting. This shows how low the water level is in Lake Travis right now.

We went to the Bob Bullock State History museum in Austin, to give Diane an introduction to Texas. This mural is on the floor as you walk in.

We did a boat tour at the Aquarena Center. This is the bottom of the lake in San Marcos, where fresh water springs bubble out. Several rare or unique species live here.

We took a look around the Texas State Capitol building in Austin. Being as Diane works in a law-related occupation, we both found it interesting that the Legislature is currently in session, so we had the opportunity to hear them passing a few laws.

Lawmaking appears to be done by computer these days:

Meanwhile, a school choir was singing in the main hall. I've never seen this place so busy.

Here's a view of the Capitol dome from the annex outside.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009


I had a fortuitous meeting with our new neighbour last weekend. He's the one who has bought the land next door and has been clearing it, preparing to build his house. All the cedar trees he took down have been slowly converted into piles of woodchip mulch by a small army of men with various chewing machines.

So, I asked what he intended to do with all this, and he said I could have as much as I liked! Bonza! Thus I spent last Sunday moving several bin-loads of it to make our front courtyard look nicer, as most of the mulch in it had been washed away.

Here's one side, before; all scraggly and unkempt:

And here's the other side, with new chippings (I took the pics halfway through the process):

I managed to capture enough to also do the flowerbeds just outside the front gate, before the army returned and redistributed all the mulch with diggers, all over the neighbour's land. Thanks, neighbour! Very generous.

Meanwhile, if you sit outside after a hard day's mulch moving, with a nice cold beer, you can be rewarded with a lovely Texas sunset:


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chuck's Deli

I can be found in this cafe most Thursdays. Behold the Chuck Salad, which is most delicious.


Monday, February 09, 2009

Office Space

There's a film called 'Office Space' which has been a cult classic since it was released ten years ago. It was made by Mike Judge (who also does 'King of the Hill' and 'Beavis and Butthead') and filmed right here in Austin. I managed to snag two tickets to the 10th Anniversary screening of the film at the Paramount Theater on 7th and Congress.

Sadly, both Alan and I have been full of the lurgy. Mine has mostly gone now but Alan has been knocked for six by it for the last week and he's still not right. So much as he wanted to see the film, he didn't think he would last the night. So I called Tamzin to see if she wanted to go. Which she did.

Here's a blog post which shows some of the actors arriving ( You can also just see me in the last picture of Samir, I'm the one with the bright blue shirt holding my phone aloft which is bright with flash.

Here's a video report from KVUE News. Oh, and it's made the Rolling Stone too!

It was pretty cool; about a dozen of the cast were present for some Q&A after the film. When they arrived, a printer was placed on the pavement and each cast member had a go at it with a baseball bat! (This will only make sense if you have seen the film). We walked in over a 'Jump to Conclusions' mat and went upstairs to take our seats in the stratosphere, it's an old theatre with very steep tiers.

Watching the film with an audience who know and love the film was good, the place was filled with laughter and cheering from start to finish. Great atmosphere. I think Tamzin enjoyed it too.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

French Cheese tastic!

So my friend Jim went to Paris a few weeks ago and he takes great delight in purchasing really tacky souvenirs for his mates. Behold the gloriousness of this Eiffel tower in glass, illuminated in soft soothing colours!


Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Hello to any of Tamzin's friends and family that might have moseyed on over here!


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Holiday Round-Up

Happy new year, to anyone reading this.

So, a few random observations on the festive period...

Alan and I went to the Trail of Lights with Tamzin, Allan and their kids. We enjoyed a pleasant meal at the Green Mesquite beforehand. I've been wanting to visit the Trail each year we've been here but never quite made it. It's a 1 1/4 mile long walk through Zilker Park lined with all sorts of Christmas lighting of trees etc. We went on a bitterly cold night (yes, we do get those in Texas occasionally) which gave me my annual excuse to wear my lovely flying jacket. Here's a few pics:

Entrance, with constant stream of people:

A nice jellyfish tree next to some typically plasticky awful character-based giant diorama things which line the trail:

The exit:

Verdict: Cool for kids. For us: seen it! Will be viewing from a safe distance (like, the pub) next year. Did I mention it was heaving with people?

We held a party just before Christmas for some folks from Alan's work. It seemed to go down pretty well; people seemed to enjoy themselves. Note for the future: Salmon on rye bread doesn't disappear nearly as fast as queso and chips. However Larry brought his famous Neiman Marcus bread (DANG! that stuff'll give you a sugar rush for a week) and Tamzin and Allan inundated us with cookie-based goodness; much of it gluten-free for one of our guests.

Next up was a Gumbo and Curry evening at Micah and Brandi's house, along with other Alan-work folks (different ones this time, mostly!). Micah made the gumbo, Alan made the curry and both were delicious.

Christmas Day was spent quietly in the house. Alan cooked a very nice steak for lunch which he coated in coffee/paprika rub. We had Dauphinoise potatoes and veg; it was all very tasty.

Boxing Day (for American readers, the UK celebrates this on the 26th. Explanation.) was spent mostly at Allan and Tamzin's house, where we joined in playing on their new Rock Band game (I reprised my old drum bashing antics) and much merriment and jollity ensued. Tamzin laid out a mountain of food again which was most splendid, and I was roped in to learn how to make lentil soup. People could still eat it so I guess I didn't break anything.

On Monday 29th I went down to Kerrville with some chaps from the CAF squadron in Burnet. Unfortunately, a well known airshow display pilot and Reno racer of years past, Lefty Gardner, died on Christmas Eve and I was asked to go down and photograph the funeral tribute flypast.

This formation includes three P-51 Mustangs and one P-38 Lightning, Lefty's old plane.

New Year's Eve was spent at Allan and Tamzin's place too; they organized a party and had everyone dress in black tie (or as near as one could manage) so we met a load of their neighbours who we hadn't seen before. It was pretty good. Mountains of good food again! Nobody goes hungry when Tamzin's on the case! Fireworks rounded off the evening which was cool.

So I'll end like I started: Happy new year!


Thursday, July 03, 2008

The lengths people go to

This appeared by our gate this morning. Every house has one. A local realtor decorating the neighbourhood for independence day. Good advertising, and a nice touch.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

General ramblings

As you may have guessed from the last three posts, I have been having fun with my new phone. Alan actually posted the one before this (beers in the garden) - his first ever blog post! Don't hold your breath for another one, unless I leave my phone unattended... It does video too, as you can see from the one with Alan shooting. Pretty cool.

RANT: Shops that assume you're a criminal when you walk in the door. I've gone into Shop X a hundred times and today they wanted me to check my bag at the door. The same bag as I've gone in there with 99 times before. I carry a smallish messenger bag; it's not even big enough to hold a laptop in. No way am I going to let them hold onto it when it contains my entire life. There's a few shops around that want to check bags but this is the first time I've had it for this bag. Gave me the right ire, that did. (No, they didn't get the bag.)

RAVE: The US Postal Service. Simply because they offer such civilised services. Such as holding your mail if you go away for a while (this will be handy during Alan's sabbatical), re-routing your mail when you move for a whole year (for free I might add, as opposed to the UK's Post Office which charges up to around $200), and also for picking mail up from your mailbox as well as dropping it off, if you're on a rural route.

This is what the little mailbox flags are for, to tell the mail carrier there's something to collect. Old news to most people I'm sure, but it took a little while for this to sink in when we first arrived. So, I'm dense...

The pick-up is great when you know what the postage is i.e. for ordinary letters but they have moved to a size/weight combination charging system here so for anything bigger it's safer to go to the post office.

I'm still not sure why mail seems to take an age to get here from the UK, when it goes from here to to the UK in seemingly no time at all... Must be differences in customs or something.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Still here

I have been absolutely inundated with a whole request to keep this blog going, so here are a few random pictures from the last few months to prove we are still alive.

The Wiener Dog Races in Buda are known worldwide, amongst dachshund owners, anyway. The Oscar Meyer Wienermobile shows up, of course:

Here are some racing dogs:

Their owners are just out of shot on the right, beckoning and enticing their dogs to come to them.

Here's a bedraggled little mouse right outside Borders bookshop in the middle of the mall. I took this and then encouraged him to retreat to the adjacent flowerbed, thinking he might have a better chance of continued existence hidden in the shade.

These succulents are in the next subdivision to us. They stand about 15 feet tall and are very impressive.

The South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival is held in March. Couldn't resist taking this shot!

This is a Skink that we found in the middle of our living room. The paper is about 5 inches wide. We have seen skinks outside at the bottom of the house walls, I guess this one got lost.

The roadside verges get covered in flowers during a Texas spring. It's really lovely to see so much colour popping up everywhere. These pink flowers are pretty numerous.

A small bird has decided to make her nest right next to one of the roads in our subdivision. She has been there for a good three weeks or more now. I think she is a Killdeer, named for the call they make.

I went to Austin Zoo and as well as the animals you pay to see, there are hundreds of lizards running about too. All different kinds.

They have put pedestrian islands into the centre lane on South Lamar, which means one can now stand right in the middle and get this shot of Austin with slightly less fear of being squished. Which is nice. I always wanted this shot but was too chicken before...

These are the doors to Matt's El Rancho Mexican restaurant, further down South Lamar. It's really good.

Finally, we have a truck that showed up at the shooting club recently. Alan took one look and asked if there was a big market for chastity belts...

(The curious can click here)


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Let there be light!

It's Christmas season, and with it comes lights, in great abundance and profusion.

But first: an insect! Haven't had one for a while, so here is a Leaf-Footed Bug for your education and amusement:

Now, back to the lights. It seems that right after Thanksgiving, people rush out and start decorating their houses. The first two weeks in December glow brighter each night as more lights come online.

Surprisingly, from what Alan has been told at work, most people decorate their gardens long before they actually get their Christmas tree. We have got ours now and it's looking all festive :-)

Here follows a series of pictures taken on Brodie Lane, and Denbar Court just off Brodie. Denbar Court is particularly impressive; a whole entire cul-de-sac in which every house has a dazzling display.

These first two sit opposite each other somewhere around Brodie and Sesbania Drive. The first one won their local lights contest.

Now we're in Denbar Court.

So, if I don't post again before the holiday, I wish all our readers a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Gardening part 3

Well, the guys have done their thing and we now have a shiny new bit of landscaping.

I really like what they have done. It has masses of potential to grow, and time will see it getting bigger and each plant will fill in the spaces that exist now.

Here's an overlook to compare with the previous two (clicky):

Here's some various angles on the area.
This is the riverbed/stream area. The first time we get a heavy rain, this will sort itself out, the rain should wash through here and start making it look more natural.

The grasses in this area are Big Muhly and Weeping Muhly; they will grow relatively tall. There's some Lindheimer's Nolina mixed in here too.

Below is the gravel patio. This looks very new right now but as we use it, will blend into the landscape. You can just see anti-deer netting around the Possumhaw Holly (with red berries on) and stakes either side of the other new tree, the Mexican Buckeye, which will turn bright pink in the spring.

It is also surrounded with Texas Sotol, a small spiny leaved thing which has tall flowers when it blooms.

This is a Sago Palm, in front of the riverbed.

Here's a Texas Lantana. I like these, they are bright yellow and orange and attract loads of butterflies. We have a couple of these; they will bush out nicely. Behind it is a spineless Prickly Pear cactus and behind that is the Mexican Buckeye.

There's also some Twisted-leaf Yucca plants around, and one Texas Kidney Wood which apparently has very lovely scented white flowers.

So, watch this space... I'll certainly be doing so. Waiting for the spring and summer, to see how this progresses!


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Gardening part 2

Well, the chaps have been working hard today. We have a bunch of rocks starting to form the faux riverbed area and the bed for the new patio has been laid. They'll be back tomorrow and expect to get it finished by the end of the day.

Here's a Bobcat carrying one of our new trees. They've put it in the garage overnight to stop it getting attacked by deer before it is planted. They will eat this tree but it's big enough that once it is in the ground, it will survive and grow taller than the deer.

The Bobcat was also used for carting all the gravel for the patio across to the site. They only had it for one day so tomorrow's gravel will have to be done by shovel and wheelbarrow.

Here's a look at the whole site (weird perspective due to photo stitching):

Click for enlargement.

The patio is clearly visible on the right. Behind this area will go two new trees. A few plants are in the ground but most are waiting until the rock area is finished.

It looks good from the ground - expect further updates in due course!


Wednesday, December 05, 2007


A quick update to mention the garden. We're having some work done on it, so watch for updates showing progress.

Here's what it looks like now:

(Click on it to see it bigger)

Here's a couple more gratuitous shots from my wanderings downtown last night.

Austin skyline with the Zilker Park Christmas tree visible.

Underneath the tree. It's really quite large.

Christmas lights on Congress Avenue.

Right, stay tuned...


Thursday, September 06, 2007

A long weekend

In the last post I said the time was up for our apartment. We have now given back the keys, so we are now several dollars a month better off but we've also lost our handy town-centre crash pad. Never mind.

Here's a couple of pictures by way of a farewell.

Remember the parking garage? They're still building around it! All the retail units and more apartments (I'm guessing) are being finished now. It seems to have taken forever to get this stuff built. We do at least have a coffee shop and a sandwich shop open now, in the already-existing retail units. And the farmers' market is there on Wednesday afternoons now which is actually pretty good. Damn shame these things didn't start up a bit sooner but there you go.

One last look at the kitchen. See how lovely and clean it is!

The guy that inspected the apartment was visibly amazed at the fact it was clean and intact. We have heard horror stories of people punching holes in walls and kicking doors down, so when he saw clean carpets and unmarked walls he was ecstatic. Which doesn't say a lot for the rest of the tenants.

Ah well, we're out of there now. Now all I have to do is tidy the mountain of boxes in our new house...

It was a long weekend due to Labor Day so Alan took the Thursday and Tuesday off last week and we had a nice loooong weekend. We were vaguely planning on maybe going somewhere but that didn't happen in the end.

Saturday was good though. I'd heard of a fly-in within driving distance - let's go!

Off we set to La Grange, about an hour and a half's drive east of us. There we found a very friendly airfield with plenty of visiting aircraft, whose pilots had all come for the monthly barbeque lunch. We naturally partook of this and found it to be some of the best Texas barbeque we've had yet; it was really very good. And then Alan won the raffle, so we came home with a huge brisket which will be feeding us for the next week.

(gratuitous aeroplane pic - more from La Grange here)

The weekend continued on with us doing a few things we'd been putting off, like getting our road tax and other boring things.

Then Mark and Jessica had a barbeque to which they invited us and some other friends, so off we went. We spent a very pleasant afternoon. As we arrived at Mark's house, we were greeted by his local deer population:

There's thirteen of them in that picture. Mark is way out in the country and his deer are a lot less scared than the ones by us. They certainly didn't seem bothered by humans too much anyway.

They also have a window-mounted hummingbird feeder, so I was able to grab a few shots of those. This little guy is a ruby-throated hummingbird, only about 3 inches long:

The next day, we went straight round to Lowe's to buy one of these feeders. We have been getting hummingbirds at our other feeder but this kind brings them right close. Expect more photos in due course...


Thursday, August 30, 2007

A whole year

Today, the lease runs out on our apartment, which means we've been here for one year exactly. Where did that go?

More later, but here's a beastie I missed out from the last round-up:


Thursday, August 09, 2007


This last month (because it's almost that long since my last post), it has done nothing much else except rain.

Rain in the morning. Pause just long enough for me to stay dry during my morning walk. Clouds thin a little, hope just starts to get piqued, then hope is shattered as rain starts again by midday. Rain all afternoon until about 22:00 when you might, if you're lucky, glimpse a star peeking out from behind another cloud.

It seems we are living in a parallel world. Both the UK and Texas have seen severe flooding this month. My parents in Gloucestershire both lost their water supply when the local water treatment plant got flooded. Meanwhile, the lakes by northwest Austin which were 40 feet below their normal levels two months ago have now more than peaked about 7 feet above their maximum. All the local dams were opened and the newspapers were filled with images of raging torrents of water. British newspapers carried aerial photos of villages turned into islands. Here's some good pictures of British floods while Texas was also in the news.

Closer to home, we mostly stayed in. Our rain comes in very heavy downpours, all at once. The houses around here all have ditches in the front of the yard to carry water through; all the driveways have pipes underneath. Here's one of the ditches during one heavy rainstorm:

Here's someone's front garden. A house further down the road has part of the creek running through it and they had even more water.

One night we went out for some food. The storm started during our meal and when we left, the Jeep was in water almost up to the wheel rims. We got wet, leaping into the vehicle. It was the right car to bring though - the journey home was interesting to say the least. I've never seen flash flooding rain like this. All the roads were completely covered. One field was sloping towards a section of road; the road was awash. Of course we waded through this lot and got to the level crossing which stands between us and home, and a train had decided to park itself thereupon. So we had to make a longish detour, wondering if the low water point would be crossable or not. As is turned out, the raincloud didn't reach that far so we were OK. In fact, our main route home might have been impassable as that road _was_ under the cloud.

This is Alan and I, waiting inside my Jeep for the rain to stop. All around us was bright sunshine, except for the raincloud dumping water onto precisely this bit of parking lot. We gave up waiting and got wet (again). By the time we came out of the store, it was all gone.

I relocated my weather station last week, so the rain collector is no longer underneath the roof overhang. Now it can count rain properly and won't under-read as it has been doing. Since I did that, the storms have gone away.

Sorry Central Texas, it was obviously all my fault!

Meanwhile, people continue to notice we have bought a house. This means people like mortgage financiers, banks, credit cards, DIY and homeware stores etc. Some of these are a pain but some are good. The stores have been sending us 10% and 20% off vouchers. And then a lady from the Buda Chamber of Commerce turned up one day with this big basket of stuff, including coupons and free samples from all the local businesses, as a welcoming package. Isn't it nicely presented?

Items of Americana: The Wagon.

You see people with these things everywhere, a lot of times with small children being towed in them. We wanted something to drag stuff around the garden, but didn't want the bulk of a wheelbarrow. This is so typically American, it had to be done!:

And lastly (for now), I was in Kyle yesterday. They are doing major works on their high street. Here's a really mega giant chainsaw! I love the fact it's parked outside a martial arts studio - gives a whole new meaning to 'Karate Chop'!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

'Tis the season

Yesterday was Memorial Day, which here in America is traditionally the beginning of summer. And in America, the summer is Grilling Season.

So behold, our new gas grill, with Alan at the helm. Note the Margarita held in Alan's hand - no grill chef should be without one ;-)

Y'all will be happy to know the grill works very well. Visitors should be primed to the prospect of eating plenty of burgers and sausages from this fine outdoor kitchen.

We are looking forward to being able to do more outdoors cooking. The advantage of a gas burner is that you don't have to wait for a barbeque to heat up, which makes it more useful on a weekday evening.

Other things that occurred this weekend - rain. Lots of rain. It was a bank holiday, after all. However we did go into town on Saturday night in my Jeep, with the top down, after the clouds had threatened all day but not actually done anything. We met Peggy and Lloyd at their trailer, which just happens to be right next door to Austin's new brew pub. We felt it was our duty to go and sample some of their beers, which turned out to be very drinkable. After a very pleasant evening with our friends, we drove back just in time - the heavens opened just as we got back to the ranch! We managed to get the Jeep under cover before we got too wet but some rain did get in. All part of the fun ;-)

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Summer officially starts now!

Despite the current forecast, which shows 10 days of thunderstorms, I don't care. The nice UPS man brought my Jeep transmogrification kit.

The hardtop is off! I got a mesh screen to shade the sun:

This morning I took my first drive in an open-top vehicle. It's breezy fun!

Summer is started :-)


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Settling in

Well, we're all moved in and getting boxes unpacked slowly. The last few weeks have been taken up with sorting things out, shopping, getting used to the new place etc.

We've also taken in a couple of airshows and a very splendid fly-in - pics in the usual place.

The new house is very nice. It's quite big too. However the garden is even bigger. It gets very dark at night; the nearest streetlights are not that close and hidden by trees. There are all manner of unfamiliar wildlife noises too.

Anyway, the rest of this is mainly pictures of things in our garden...

First up, the truck that brought all our furniture and boxes:

This is a Cardinal. We have several pairs that seem to inhabit the garden. This is a male - the female is a lot browner in colour. This isn't a great picture - in real life they are brighter red. They also seem to know when a camera is pointed at them so you don't get much of a chance to get the picture...

Here's a baby deer with its mother. I've only seen this the once, they showed up a couple of weeks ago but haven't been back since.

Flowers are in riotous bloom at the moment. Extra rain this Spring has brought them all out. Here's some Prickly Pear cactus flowers. These smell really nice too.

These are thistles of some kind with delicate white flowers. They seem to be very short lived bloomers; the flower patterns change each day. This one has a big green spider in it.

Here's an often-seen visitor :-) She has a couple of friends, too. I know she's a female because her friends made it very obvious the other day, ifyouknowwhatImean...

Here's an example of the roadsides in the area right now. The whole place is festooned with various flowers, most of them red or yellow, some purple, some yellow and black. They really light up the whole state with colour. The red ones here are Indian Blankets, not sure about the yellow ones.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Whole lotta movin' going on

Well, it's almost time for us to be moving out of our apartment (although we're not really, just yet, we'll be using up our lease as a highly expensive crash pad for beery weekends ;-)

I cleared out our storage room on Wednesday. This is in another building so we figured that it would be easier to just get a U-Haul truck and fill it up with the boxes that have never been unpacked since we arrived in the US. This task fell to me, so off I trotted to U-Haul (conveniently just up the road) to get a truck :-) I filled it with boxes and drove it to the new house. This might not be very impressive but this is the biggest vehicle I've yet driven! It was fun. I unpacked it and took it back. This little exercise took almost six hours so it kept me busy for most of the day.

U-Haul trucks are cool because each one has a different design on the side. As you can see, this one has a giant green dinosaur on it, illustrating the Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. Each design represents some place in America, and there's quite a few, so U-Haul trucks are a constant source of intrigue as to what one might see next!

Today I went to the house again to meet with the cable installer chap, who was bringing us nice things like internet, TV and phone. We also took delivery of a washer, dryer and fridge, to replace those we left behind in the UK.

While I was waiting there, two deer wandered into the garden. Birds singing, blue skies, this is why we came back :-)

Alan wants to buy a barbeque grill at the weekend. I wonder if it is co-incidence that he just looked at this picture and said "Bambi-burger!"


Sunday, April 15, 2007

A glorious Austin Sunday

It's just been lovely today. Not a cloud in the sky, not too hot either. We went a-drivin' this morning to accomplish a few tasks, then dumped the car back at the apartment and got a bus into town. Stopped off at Whole Earth where I bought a sunglasses case, then it was down to Waterloo Records, who were celebrating 25 years of business with a free concert featureing about eight local bands, all day. This was pretty cool; we hung out for a while, had a beer, chilled out.

Departed via Whole Foods for some lunch, walked over to Republic park a few blocks away. The Austin Arts Festival was here this weekend, which took over about six blocks of town, closed the streets and had over 200+ artists selling their wares.

After enjoying the delights of this market, we walked ten-ish blocks to Scholz Garten for a couple of beers. Scholtz was surprisingly empty for such a lovely day but we enjoyed the sun in their garden.

We walked on, another ten-ish blocks through the University to the Crown and Anchor, where we partook of another couple of fine ales. Beer-fueled excercise, it's great :-)

Onward to Trudy's for a splendid supper, then walking another 15 blocks back to the apartment, where I am typing this while watching Doctor Who. Can't be beat :-)

A bit wamer, any road, than yesterday - we were up in Burnet for an airshow. 20MPH winds gusting to 35MPH, crosswinds of 45 degrees over the runway, proved to be some challenging conditions for both pilots and spectators alike...

I did promise some hot rods from the other week. They were very cool.

Check them out here.

The Doctor demands my attention, so I will continue anon...


Thursday, March 01, 2007

The house buying process

We've been looking at houses recently. Although we are staying in the apartment just now, it's always ever been a temporary measure until we found an area that we liked, and then a house within that area to buy.

So it's off we go down the uncharted road that is the American house buying process. Of course, it is completely different to the English way of doing things. And I say English way as the Scottish system is different again.

First of all, you need a Realtor. I think if you know what you're doing you can get away without one but for us, we need a guide. A Realtor is someone who will find you houses to look at, who will arrange appointments with owners/agents for you to go and see the houses, and who will prepare all the paperwork for you.

If you know exactly what you want, you can be taken on by a Realtor as a customer, in which case they can't advise you or do anything other than what you want them to do. We chose to go as a client (which most people do) so Jamie, our Realtor, can advise us, show us more homes etc. There's more to it than that, but that's the gist of it.

So all this is about as close as it gets to being an equivalent of the British estate agent, who has a list of houses for sale and will do all the paperwork etc. It seems that Realtors, while tied to one listing house, have access to all the houses listed anywhere, so in the end maybe it's a bit more flexible.

So once you find a house that you like, the next step is to make an offer. Here is where it gets quite different. The Realtor will prepare a contract which you have to sign. This details how much you are offering, what you will put in as down payment ('deposit' has a slightly different meaning here), how much earnest money you will pay, what time periods things will be done in, what the closing date is to be, title policy, tax district, property condition, floodplain/environmental factors, termination options and broker fees, amongst many other things.

What it boils down to is that you have to sign the contract and write two cheques.

The first cheque is a $200 option fee. This means that if your offer is accepted, that $200 buys you the right to get out of the contract within a set time period (usually 10 days) for any reason. You'll forfeit the $200 but that is all.

The second cheque is for something called 'earnest money' which as far as I can figure just means that it's a serious offer being made in earnest. (They're very literal in the States!) This should be around 1% of the purchase price, although it helps if you bump it up by a couple of hundred bucks to show that yes, you really are serious. It's kind of a second, smaller deposit ahead of the main down payment.

So you leave these monies with the realtor, who then goes off to the seller and puts in the offer. If the offer is rejected, you get all the money back. If the offer is accepted, the money goes towards the purchase price of the house.

Compare this with the English method in which you see the house you want and tell the estate agent, "OK, I'll offer £X00,000" and that's it!

Here endeth the first lesson. I am sure there will be more to come :-)

Meanwhile as I said up front, we have been looking at houses. We've seen some really nice ones but they all have their little quirks and wierdnesses. I guess this applies to houses in any country!

A common feature here is to call a house two-storey and then you'll have a huge living room in which the ceiling is the full height of the house. These things are cavernous, almost to the point of being quite oppressive - to me, anyway. You might have one or two rooms upstairs but in general, it's an awful waste of space.

Another one is to have a huge entraceway, often with a curved staircase. It's meant to look impressive and I suppose it does but again, all that space which could be used for better things! I guess this is a European viewpoint; we're all used to such smaller houses than the ones we have been seeing. They don't have the same issues here in Texas where land is plentiful.

One house was really lovely with great views over the Hill Country, but the plot was very long and thin, and went down the hill and back up quite steeply, obviously it was a water channel down the valley. Where's all the water going when it rains? Straight across your only entrance into your property.

Another one was very pretty, again with great views, but arranged a bit topsy-turvy inside and was a bit small. And a bit too far out of town, with a gravel road about a mile long to reach the place... my Jeep would have been OK but Alan's VW wouldn't have been so happy.

There was a great one in the area we're most keen on, which had been built out of special insulating concrete and had a complete rainwater collection system. Very enviromentally sound but it was the wrong shape inside for our needs.

Here's one we looked at. Oh no, wait! It's the Intel building on Wednesday, three days after demolition. Looks like they have a bit of clearing up to do.

You'll notice the ends of the building did not collapse. This was intentional; the demolition started in the middle and pulled everything in towards it (it _was_ meant to be an implosion, not explosion, right?) so that debris did not leave the site. The end walls did not have charges installed, so they fell inwards to contain the rest of the rubble. They're talking about bringing in wrecking balls now!

The News 8 Austin video of the demolition is worth watching.

In other building news, here's the latest view of the car park by us:

A man spent half the week spraying it with something on the outside. It didn't change the colour of it, I guess it might be a weather sealant or something. Today they're pouring concrete inside to make the ramps for cars to drive on, according to the drivers of the concrete trucks whom I asked about it.

Next to the parking garage is the rest of the construction, which I have largely ignored so far. They're putting in all the retail units around the edge of area. This starts with them laying a huge square of concrete for the floor. They then bring in reinforced concrete pillars and make a forest of them. A large truck or three will turn up after this, bringing scaffolding, which each pillar is enveloped by. A structure is then built between the tops of the pillars to form the ceiling area. The pillar tops are built out with bits of wood (looks a bit dodgy, this part!) and then mysterious work goes on for a few weeks over the ceiling area while they put the metalwork in place. It seems that concrete is poured in at some point, because some of the scaffolding has been removed on one part and you can now see what the process has been driving towards.

Here's a part where the scaffolding is still in place. You might just make out the top of the pillars and the surrounding structures.

This section has been cleared, and now it is apparent that the pillar tops have been filled with concrete to make a good support for the ceiling. (I'd love to have shares in a concrete company or two having seen the colossal use they make of it here). I assume the metalwork stays in place and reinforces the concrete around it.

Meanwhile, Flipnotics coffee shop around the corner is coming along, there are men digging holes and doing all kinds of things in there so perhaps they'll be open in a couple of months.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Construction and Destruction

I've been putting photos of the new parking garage on here that is being built outside our window, but that is just one one tiny part of the huge amount of construction that is going on in Austin.

There are currently seven new skycrapers scheduled to be built in the heart of downtown, mostly to be offices and condominium/apartment blocks. Here's a big one going in on 2nd street, just east of Congress. Here's a digger, framing the newest existing skyscraper, the Frost Bank Tower:

and here's the big hole they're making. Notice the size of the guys in the hole - you can just see their yellow jackets - to fully appreciate the scale here:

Meanwhile, some destruction is going on too. Until this morning, the Intel shell stood on 5th street. This was started several years ago during the tech boom, but Intel never finished it and gave up their lease, and it stood as an empty, controversial frame until now. There's all sorts of local politics surround this which I won't go into here. This is the building last week:

And this morning at 07:37, it was destroyed by implosion. About a thousand people turned out to watch, including Alan and me. You can see the full sequence here, but here's a couple of shots. BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG (pause) BANG BANG!


I'll probably go down soon to check out the pile of rubble, for completeness. They say it will take a couple of months to clear it. The ends of the building did not fully collapse - I suspect by design; as it's kept the main pile within the boundaries of the site. So there will be men with jackhammers all around soon, I would reckon.
They're going to build a new courthouse on the site but that won't be built for another two years or so yet...


Friday, February 16, 2007

Photo time

I've been making myself reminders of more comparisons to make but you might have to wait for those. Meanwhile, here are some photos.

Although I should mention that last weekend, we attended our first American wedding. The bride is Monica, Alan's fitness instructor from his work. She turns up four times a week to the office gym and puts Alan and some other guys through hell. So she invited the guys to her wedding.

The wedding was held at the Driskill Hotel which is about the poshest place in town, right on 6th and Congress. The proceedings were much as a tradition British wedding would be. However Monica is half Korean, so there were some Korean elements to the ceremony, such as the giving and receiving of a (wooden) wild goose from the groom to the bride's mother, symbolising love and steadfastness as wild geese mate for life.

We enjoyed the wedding reception, although we found it a bit odd that the party stops at 4 in the afternoon. British weddings tend to go on a lot longer. There was also two wedding cakes, one for each of the bride and groom. They were the only real differences to a British wedding though. I did take plenty of pictures, but I don't know Monica well enough (or at all!) to be posting her wedding all over the internet, so tough. All you need to know is that she looked lovely.

Right, here we go.

The car park on the 2nd February:

Sunset on the same day was really nice and covered half the sky. This is a blend of four images, necessary to fit it all in.

The 14th of February and it looks like they have finished the main structure of the car park. I'll get a proper picture later on. The far corner has ended up being recessed which you can't really see here. The big crane is still about but has moved off a bit and men are crawling all over the car park stucture doing various things.

Sunset was nice that day too!

OK, these are from earlier today. Our friends Peggy and Lloyd have mentioned in their blog about the guitar sculptures that are currently taking over downtown. I've seen some of these around and have been meaning to investigate them. So being as it was a glorious day, I went downtown to capture some of them. There's 33 in all and I got 15 of them. I intend to get them all... in due course, in due course...

I couldn't be downtown with my camera and not visit the Capitol Building, which is something I've been meaning to do for months and something always comes up to nix it, or the weather's crap when I have a free day. Ha! Got it today. Will have to go back with a tripod (friendly guard said he's never told anyone off for using one so I should be OK) for more/better interior shots.

The gate:

The building itself, which is 15ft taller than the White House if memory serves. Everything's bigger in Texas!

Inside the main hall, looking up into the dome. This is grainy as hell and I will have to do this properly with the aforementioned tripod but here you go:

Right, Alan's home now and we need beer so I'm signing off.


Monday, January 29, 2007

At last!

News of the day is that my work permit has finally arrived! It takes the form of a credit-card sized item with my mugshot, signature and fingerprint on there, as well as lots of extra shiny holographic overlays. This thing is more secure than our visas or driving licences! Looks like I have to renew it every 18 months or so though. So be it.

A couple of gratuitous sunrise shots for you, since Alan phoned this morning to tell me it looked like a promising one:

And the latest view of the parking lot across the way. They've slowed down a bit recently - not helped by the ice last week, I'm sure. They seem to have built that random bit at the front corner but there's nothing yet to join it to the main structure. Time will tell, I suppose.

Meanwhile, I noticed an alcohol license application on the window of one of the empty units next to the gym this morning, for Flipnotics coffee shop/bar. Perhaps we will get another place to go, soon :-)


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Mainly Ice

It looks like the weather is set to warm up a little today but yesterday was still covered in ice and as predicted, Alan and most of Austin stayed at home.

Here's some more ice pictures:

All the grass and other vegetation is encased in ice:

This rose was no exception:

More icicles hanging from the awnings:

Compare this with the previous fountain picture to see how much the ice grew overnight:

A close-up of the lower half of the fountain:

It's still dark as I write this but I suspect most of the ice will be gone if not already, then during this morning. Alan has made it in to work and he says the most exposed parts are still icy but it is due to get better today, so we will see.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ice and snow!

It is continuing to be cold and today we have snow!
The weather advisories have told everyone to stay at home today due to the ice storm. Most schools and businesses are closed. There's very little traffic on the roads. The ice storm is the most un-stormy thing I have seen, it is dull and grey outside but very still, not raging at all but very cold.

We went out to get some bread and found the grass and plants on the ground are all encased in ice. The roads and pavements are slippery. It's to freeze hard tonight so by tomorrow it will probably be sheet ice. Alan is working from home today and no doubt will do so again tomorrow.

These are some icicles on the side of the next building.

ice fountain
Around the corner, the fountain outside the Italian shop is still flowing but all iced up too.

Meanwhile, we are running warm machines in the apartment as we have just discovered that the heating system in here is worse than useless... we haven't had occasion to test it before!

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Monday, January 15, 2007

It's cold in Texas

In the last post, I said we were going to see a Laser Spectacular show. We did, and it was not bad. There were plenty of lasers being flung about the room and making pretty patterns on a projection screen, alongside regular projections of (mostly) the Pink Floyd videos that went with the songs they played. The music was LOUD though, unecessarily so really. But we enjoyed it.

Friday night saw the weather really coming in though, and we got home just in time before the rain started in earnest. When we woke up on Saturday morning, the rain had been hammering down all night and continued to do so all day. The lake and culvert outside the apartment were totally flooded. We think this is designed - when it rains, there's so much water it has to go somewhere, preferably in a controlled fashion. There are warning signs around the lake that say the area is prone to flooding.

Here's a couple of before-and-after shots showing just how much it flooded. The first one shows the lake run-off; if you look carefully you can see the water is almost a second lake all the way to the end in the first shot!

After the water had receded:

A staircase on the edge of the lake itself:

The same staircase at normal water levels:

I say normal water levels - it actually seemed like the water had dropped more than usual when the flood receded. Alan wonders if there was a blockage somewhere that the pressure of water may have shifted.

Saturday night saw us at Mark and Jessica's house for a few beers and games of pool, with Micah and Brandi and some other friends of Mark's. This was a very pleasant evening. It was nice to get out of the house too, as we'd been stuck in all day due to the incessant rain.

Now the rain has passed but it has turned very cold. The weather charts show a big ice storm covering a huge chunk of central USA, most of central and northern Texas. We are getting the southern edge of it. We went out at lunchtime to get some supplies and I had to wear my big sheepskin jacket. Didn't think I'd be needing that much in Texas!

Here's a bush covered in ice drips:

Here's some icicles forming on our balcony railing:

See, I'm not lying! It's cold outside!

Finally, some random birdlife. Here's a Great Egret that comes regularly to the lake. It was enjoying all the new debris washed up by the floodwaters.

Some years ago, we are told, a person released a couple of parrots into the woods the other side of the UT football fields just by here. Since then, Nature has taken its course, and there are many parrots! They nest in the lighting towers in the football fields. The other day I was walking past and there must have been 40-50 of them on the ground. Here's a few of them:

Right, I'm away to turn the heating on...

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Things are quiet and steady

We're still alive, in case anyone is wondering. Just getting on with normal life.

Alan finally has his car back! It's still not quite finished, it's missing a new boot liner and the badges for the back. They're waiting for those to come in but it's all perfectly driveable, so Alan is driving it, in a much-relieved kind of fashion. The actual repair has been done very well; the shut lines on the new boot lid are parallel to the body and the paint matches nicely. Unfortunately they've managed to scratch the roof but they have said they will fix it.

Meanwhile, the US Government has now decided they want to see our visas and other documents before they will issue me a work permit. (A) they already know these details - they issued the visas! - and (b) why didn't they ask to see them when they called me down to San Antonio the other week? *sigh*

I finished my stained glass course last night. Won't know what to do with myself on Thursday nights now.

Tuesday morning dawned bright and shiny with a full moon. I dashed outside (well, as dashy as I get in the early AM) with the camera; went up onto the car park top level which is the highest point of our building and for some distance around. You get good views off the top.

Dawn is coming and the clouds are tinged with orange. The moon is setting. This was taken with my new wide-angle lens at about its widest setting.

Here's the moon. This is almost full sized - click here to see the full shot, cropped but not resized. Taken with my 400mm long zoom which equates to about 560mm on my camera due to the smaller sensor. These next two were using the same lens.

Dawn breaks. I think the crane and tower are over at the old airport where they are turning the whole area into basically a new town.

Looking towards the city. You can see the Capitol building (domed), the Frost Bank tower (spiky) and the University tower (square-topped), amongst other towers.

I still haven't got near any Christmas lights with the camera but hope to change that soon. Will keep y'all posted...


Saturday, November 25, 2006


The eagle eyed reader will have noticed me mention doing a stained glass course. I've been going on Thursday nights for the last 6 weeks. We are making one lead panel and one copper foil panel. Today I finished my lead panel. It's about 20 inches wide.

I made this!:


Friday, November 24, 2006


It's Thanksgiving weekend here in the US of A, the biggest holiday of the year. So, a few words about it.

But first, this - by request, here is a pic of the POS that Alan is currently driving, a Vlad, properly known as a Chevrolet Impala:

Word from the garage is that Alan's car is almost fixed but they are waiting on one more part. We should have it back soon....

Alan bought me my Christmas present a month early on Wednesday. He figured I might as well have the use of it. A shiny new wide-angle lens :-) Here's a pic from the first outing, from my favourite vantage point overlooking the bridge on Loop 360:

And now to Thanksgiving. I think this holiday is originally to thank the Founding Fathers for discovering America and creating the country. However it's basically a big family get-together during which Americans eat copious amounts of turkey. A big turkey dinner is the tradition; it's also known as Turkey Day.

We had been invited to join Alan's colleagues Steve and Sarah for Thanksgiving dinner, to which they had invited others as well. There were eleven people at dinner, some from the company and their respective wives/husbands. Sarah had made a great dinner, with sweet potato, roast veg, sweetcorn, broccoli, cornbread, British and American stuffing. Not to mention all the tasty nibbles beforehand.

Another of Alan's mob, Stef, turned up with a second turkey and his own means of cooking it. Deep-fried turkey! Here we introduce Thanksgiving dinner, Stef-style:

Take an enormous box of cooking oil:

And a turkey:

Pour the oil into the burner:

Wait for it to heat up to 350 degrees, and drink some beer:

One person should carefully and slowly lower the turkey in. The rest of the audience should retreat to a safe distance at this point. There will be much bubbling and hissing.

Cook it for 3 minutes per pound.

Here's the finished result. It was more moist than the oven-cooked one but they were both equally nice. The deep-frying didn't make it as oily as you'd imagine, at all.

So there you are, that's our first introduction to Thanksgiving. And very good it was too.

Today - the day after Thanksgiving - is known as Black Friday. This is when the sales start, the Christmas shopping commences, the stores all open at 5am (really) and the retailers go into the black financially for the first time in the year. From here on in, Christmas will be in earnest. Shopping will need to be done, lights will appear on the houses and I expect things to get generally mental. We will keep you posted.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Quick update

Just a small update to let any readers out there know we're still alive.

We went down to San Antonio last Saturday for Lackland AFB air show, which was very good. Pictures here. We met up with our friend Terry at the show, who is doing some training in San Antonio before he moves back up to North Carolina. He's coming to stay tomorrow night which will be good.

Sunday morning we went out onto the lake with Dave, who did some wake skating while Alan drove the boat and I lounged around ;-) Alan had a quick go at wakeboarding but stopped as his wrist was too sore. My shoulder is still dodgy so I gave it a miss this time. It was lovely to be out on the lake though, it was a very still, calm morning although it was very dull and grey. We were the only ones on the water aside from a fisherman.

Alan flew off to California on Sunday evening; he's back late tonight. He is annoyed though as he just phoned the garage and they told him that one of the load-bearing parts in the back of the car has been damaged, and they don't carry that part in the USA, so they will have to go back to VW Europe to find out what they can do. Quite why they don't have parts is beyond me. Looks like we will have a POS rental for a while yet.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Silver linings

Things are improving again, we are coming out of the shadows.

Car: We have gone through the other party's insurance and they have confirmed they are at fault and will pay for it to be fixed. This is good as (a) it will get fixed and (b) it doesn't affect our no-claims. So we're waiting on the garage to call us now to arrange a time for it to go in. I think they're waiting on parts to be delivered.

This seems to be the story at the moment - I'm also waiting on the Jeep garage to call, as they are waiting on parts too. I'm meant to be having an iPod connector fitted. At some point...

People that we've spoken to about the incident seem to be of similar opinions, for example: it was lucky the other driver was insured (about 1/3 of drivers are not), it happens all the time etc. One chap said his shiny new car got hit only one hour after picking it up - at least ours lasted 22 hours! You do see a lot of dented cars about here. And people seem very blasé about it; recommending body shops they've used 'several times', etc. The insurance company themselves said they get a disproportionately large number of claims from the downtown Austin area. So perhaps it is something we will have to learn to live with.

TV: We went shopping last Sunday and bought a new TV set. It's a nice one, a larger screen than we had before. It's also HD capable. We get a few channels broadcast over the air in HD and the picture is very sharp. The TV is also NTSC-only, however, as they all are here. We had a few days where we thought our mostly region 2 / PAL-format DVD collection was basically expensive coasters, until Alan went back to the manual for the DVD player and found a way to force NTSC output. So we are saved! Gives us a good excuse to watch all our favourite films again :-)

I got my social security number last week too. Now I'm a real person!

Last Saturday saw us at New Braunfels, about 2/3 of the way to San Antonio. They held an airshow to benefit the Moonlight Fund, a burns victim charity. Somewhat ironically, we did both get very sunburnt as we were facing into the sun all day, even with sun cream on. However the air show was very good, with a jet-powered truck, an aeroplane landing on a Winnebago, plenty of aerobatics etc. Pictures are here.

Tomorrow morning we will be out of the door at sparrowfart AM to catch a 6am flight to Las Vegas! Alan has to work but the people he is seeing have said he can bring a guest, so I get to wield my camera about the city for a couple of days. We'll be back on Friday.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Oh fer smeg's sake

The TV has just blown up.

I think we need to go back to bed for a few days.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Bad luck comes in threes

They say bad luck comes in threes, don't they? Alan broke his tooth the other day. So he got his first taste of American dental treatment. Usual thing: very good, very expensive.

Thursday night I went for my first class in a stained glass course. It was good. More about this another day.

Friday night, we went to Georgetown to pick up Alan's shiny new car. He bought a VW Golf GTI, (Rabbit GTI for our American readers) in sparkly metallic black. It looked lovely waiting for us in the parking lot. Apparently VW are doing a promotion at the moment in which they proclaim that 'VWs Rock!' and as a result of this, we are meant to get a custom VW electric guitar in the post soon, which you're meant to be able to plug into the car... Anyway, Alan drove it back. He thought it was great.

We then get back in the house and find the washing machine has got stuck (again) and has been churning water through the rinse cycle for the last two hours. I guess that's cost us a couple of hundred bucks on our water bill. You have no idea how much water an American washing machine gets through.

Today (Saturday) we drove over to Fredericksburg for a fly-in. The weather was perfectly flyable until we got past Johnson City, when it started raining. Heavily. The airport was not actually raining but was very damp and only a few aeroplanes had made it in. I got some photos of what was there but nothing was flying. That said, Gillespie County Airport is a great facility, with brand new hangars, a hotel, diner and conference center. We'll be back, hopefully on a nicer day.

So we went back to Austin via a few shops for some stuff we needed. About a block from the apartment, we were waiting at some lights. They went green, Alan stalled the car - unfamiliar gearbox, wrong gear. And **WHACK** from behind as the huge GMC Yukon truck went straight in the back of us. Goodbye shiny car, hello very dented and bruised car. Hadn't even had it 24 hours.

Everyone is OK at least. The Golf's rear bumper is totally stoved in. The boot (trunk) lid will need to be replaced. Luckily the glass looks intact. Of course, the only damage to the Yukon was a slightly bent license plate.

We're meant to have an estimator chap around tomorrow and the car is scheduled to go for fixing at 08:30 Monday morning. To be honest, that's pretty quick work on the insurance company's part. We were only yesterday being pleased that we will save $400 next insurance period for having Texas driving licenses, but now we are hoping this might not affect our no-claims, as if we lose that, it's going to be another $1000 instead, and insurance is expensive enough as it is.


Oh, we did finally get our mattress at least. We get to sleep on our new bed tonight at last.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Things are starting to happen

Yes, my post rate on this blog is slowing down. (Is anyone even reading this?) Life is settling into its usual rythyms of work and weekends. Still got loads of unpacking to do of course.

We went to see Patricia Vonne last weekend. She played at Jovita's on South First. We'd been for some food beforehand at Evanita's Botanitas, a very fine interior Mexican restaurant. Noted amongst other things for serving six kinds of salsa with their tortilla chips. Yum :-) Anyway, Ms Vonne was most excellent. She plays her own style; rock mixed with Latino, dancing, lots of energy. Her current album is called Guitars and Castanets, both of which she uses to great effect. Find more about her here.

Jovitas signboard

This week, Alan became a real person. He got his social security number! I'm still waiting on mine; hopefully it will come in the next day or two. This means America will now deal with us, Alan is allowed to get finance deals, take out services, write cheques; that sort of thing, kinda handy for buying cars/houses/cable TV/mobile phones really. And yes, we already have the TV and phones but we had to pay hefty deposits, which we should now get back hopefully.

So we went to the garage last night to pay for the Jeep! Now the Jeep is officially ours :-) They swapped our dealer plates for an 'untitled vehicle' plate, so I should get real plates in about three weeks. You only get plates when the vehicle is titled and registered, here. Title means you own it. Registration is done at State level. It's kind of like the British V5 but split into two. Anyway, it seems to work. You see a lot of vehicles driving about with untitled plates on though - must be a lot of new cars around at any one time. The '11 02' means I have until the 2nd November (20 days) to get real plates. The garage handles all that - I just have to fetch them or (or they'll post them) when they turn up.

Untitled Vehicle plate

Got it washed yesterday too. I was too embarrassed to take it to the garage looking as mucky as it did. So I thought I'd try the place down the road. Get this - you drive in, three guys vacuum the inside, one drives it round to the wash, it goes through that (automated), then four ladies dry it off, polish the outside, polish the inside/dash, clean the windows and generally make it lovely. That costs the princely sum of $11 (about six quid)!


Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I may have mentioned it being like a building site around here. Yesterday I got an educational view from the balcony as the builders poured concrete into the new pathway below. They're quite skilled about it actually. The big machine pours the concrete in, then they spread it out evenly, smooth it over etc. A guy comes a long with a flat broom on a stick with a pointy bit in the middle, with which he cuts grooves to make concrete panels. No measuring, he just makes nice even grooves along the length of the path. Then a guy with a normal broom sweeps the surface to make the textured walkway. Another couple of guys make the edges extra smooth to finish them nicely, then finally a guy sprays the whole thing with some kind of liquid - I guess this is a hardening agent or similar. It dries quickly in the sun.

Here's a gratuitous shot of the giant pouring machine - it's angled as that's the only way I could fit it in:
Concrete pouring machine

Anyway, yesterday also brought the arrival of our sea freight. This is where the rest of our house joins us in the apartment. The good news is that it all seems to be present, although we haven't opened all the boxes yet to see if things are intact (but so far, so good). However....

Oh. My. God. How much stuff do we have?!?!?!?!

Remember our nice spacious apartment?
Lots of lovely space

It's turned into this:

We have taken a storage room. Only snag is that it's in the other building. We looked at the ones in our building but they were tiny. Building 2 has much bigger rooms, and we are going to need the space... so all our books, CDs, old kitchen stuff, shed/garden stuff etc are all going to be put away.

We hit on another tiny snaglet as well. We bought a new bed a couple of weeks ago, wanting to use our existing bed for the spare room. So off we trotted to the bed shop, where we ordered a king size bed.

Yesterday we reckoned we'd put our British king size mattress onto said new bed (the new mattress hasn't arrived yet) so we had somewhere to sleep, otherwise Alan would have to build the second bed.

Here we discovered the hithertofore unknown difference in British and American king sizes:

American Kings must be bigger too

I guess we need to buy new sheets....


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Picture pages

I made a couple of web pages of various things:

Air and water - cloudscapes, sunsets and rainbows

Lake Life - creatures around the lake by our apartment

Just back in from wakeboarding at the cable lake down in New Braunfels. It was fun but hard work. It's a good place though; you don't have to worry about getting up onto the water, they launch you from a sitting position. We both managed a couple of reasonable attempts but most of the time were swiftly in the water... More practise required!


Monday, September 11, 2006

An Austiny weekend

It was the Big Game this weekend - Texas Longhorns versus Ohio State Buckeyes, playing football against each other on Saturday evening. The American variety of course, not soccer. These are the top two teams in college football so a lot of interest was being take in the game.

College football is big business here. They were saying on the TV that the Longhorns stadium had its biggest ever crowd in it - 90,000 people. Rumours of 20,000 Ohio fans coming into town were believable on Friday night, when every bar along 6th Street turned red with their shirts. The rest of the town turned burnt orange - Longhorns colour - and I do mean the whole town; I have never seen so many people supporting a single team. Manchester United have a lot to learn!! Tickets for this game were going on eBay for up to $4000. There was a lot of hype going on. We joined in - when in Rome - I bought a hat and Alan has a shirt :-)

Come game time, we were in a bar downtown (where else?!) and sitting outside. This gave us a lovely view of the diamond-four formation of USAF F-15 fighter jets doing a flypast of the stadium, followed by two flankers. We stayed in the bar to watch the game for a couple of hours - enough to see the single touchdown scored by the Longhorns. We had to go as we were up early the next morning. Sadly the Longhorns lost the game 28-7 to Ohio - the first game lost in the last 21 played.

Pink truck with cowhorns
Gratuitous picture of a truck with cowhorns on for all those people who didn't believe me that these existed! Spotted parked on Congress on Saturday night.

Next morning, we had been invited to go wakeboarding by Dave, one of Alan's colleagues. This is a cross between waterskiing and snowboarding, i.e. you have both feet attached to a short board and you are towed behind the boat. The idea is to use the wake of the boat as a ramp to jump off and do tricks etc.

Early morning view
Here's the lake at about 06:45 on Sunday morning. The lake water level is about 30 feet lower than usual; they desperately need rain to fill it up. The lakeside is sprinkled with boathouses that should be in the water but have been left high and dry.

The first step in wakeboarding is to get out of the water and upright on the board, which Dave makes look easy but proves to be a bit tricky do achieve. After several attempts, however, I did manage to get the hang of getting out of the water. I still haven't got entirely upright, but did manage a couple of short runs where I was crouched on the board, feeling the water skitting underneath before lunching it in one way or another. It's too easy to dig the front edge of the board in which pitches you off forwards, or just not get balanced forward enough so you fall backwards etc.

I think we may try the cable lake south of here next weekend, which is apparently like a water-based ski lift; you have a series of ropes pulling you around a circle to train you in wakeboarding. Alan needs to get himself a lifevest first though - Dave didn't have one in his size and without the extra buoyancy of the jacket, Alan couldn't get enough angle to lift himself out of the water.

Dave wakeboarding
Here's Dave showing us how it should be done. Better pictures coming when I take my proper camera!

Dave jumping
Dave getting some air off a wake ramp.

So thanks to Dave to a great morning. We went off and got some lunch at the New World Deli after this, then went to Wal-Mart to buy a vacuum cleaner and other household cleaning items. We also visited a computer museum which Alan particularly enjoyed.

Last night saw us walking along 43rd street to Duval, where a cluster of eateries and bars may be found. We had dinner in Mother's Cafe And Garden, which is a vegetarian restaurant. The food was excellent. I has a spinach lasagne and Alan had a stir-fry. We then hopped across the road to a bar, where we sat outside in the warm evening air and ejoyed a few Pilsener Urquells. Verrry nice. We'll be back there, I do believe!


Thursday, September 07, 2006

New chairs and a night out

We took delivery of our new chairs yesterday afternoon, that we had ordered from Eurway, a fine store that is what IKEA should be but isn't. They also delivered our bed but that will remain unassembled until we get our mattress.

New chairs

Yesterday evening we went into town to join a few chaps from Alan's work, for tea. We were due to meet at the Iron Works for some barbeque. Alan and I were early into town, so we stopped by the Ginger Man for a swift ale.

This hot dog stand was parked next door. I don't think I'll be eating there!

Doggy Style Hot Dogs

I assume the American meaning of this name is the same as in Britain?!!

We enjoyed our beer and later, our meal, and afterwards found our way to the Cedar Door for some Mexican Martinis. These are very tasty. From Austin 360's review of the Cedar Door:

Cedar Door's Original Mexican Martini
In a 16-oz. shaker glass full of ice combine:
1 1/2 oz. Sauza Gold Tequila
1 1/2 oz. Hiram Walker Triple Sec

Finish with freshly squeezed lime juice, a splash of orange juice and sweet and sour. Shake well and serve in a champagne glass with a salted rim, garnished with three olives on a sword pick and lime wedge. Toast "To the Door!"

We didn't toast, but we did enjoy :-)


Monday, September 04, 2006

Picture time

We thoroughly enjoyed the concert last night. It was the Austin Symphony, conducted by Peter Bay, featuring Joshua Bell on violin. He is a virtuoso who has played virtually since he was born; he has been on the world scene for 20 years and is now only in his early 30s. You could say he was a bit good. The programme was the following:
Schuman American Festival Overture
Beethoven Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61
Brahms Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 73
The Austin Symphony are doing a Beethoven season this year. We may well go and hear some more.

Today we went to look at motor vehicles. There's a shiny one north of here with my name on. That's all I'm saying until it gets a bit closer to becoming reality. Mwahaha! ;-)

We went to the cinema this evening. There's a new Mike Judge film out, 'Idiocracy'. It was very good; very funny.

Time for some photos. These are of varied quality as they're taken with my new cellphone, which is much better outside during the bright daylight than inside or in artifical light.

The apartment block
Here is the end of our apartment block, with the lake in front of it. The main road, Guadalupe, is behind from this angle.

Living room
Our living room. You can see the kitchen on the left, Alan on the right and our new rug in the foreground. The lake is outside the window. Furniture is mid-Atlantic.

Kitchen 1
A view of our kitchen showing the sink and dishwasher.

Kitchen 2
The cooker, fridge and microwave.

Here's the guest bathroom. The master is the same but with two sinks.

OK, that's your lot for tonight. We have to start work tomorrow. That's going to be a shock!


Sunday, September 03, 2006

A bit more relaxed now

We have got most of the major shopping done that we needed in order to start our new home. Yesterday, we only went to Pottery Barn to buy some glasses and a rug for the living room. Well, we didn't set out to buy a rug, but they had one we liked a lot and it was on sale - $480 reduced to about $120, you can't argue with that!

We walked over to the nearby Chipotle for lunch; it's a couple of blocks from the apartment. They sell very tasty burritos. We watched a chap outside with his tiny black labrador puppy, it was very cute.

Later on we caught a bus downtown. The princely sum of one whole dollar gets you 24 hours of travel on any bus in Austin. I think the UK has something to learn here. We went down to Congress Bridge which had been closed off for Batfest, in which they put a stage at each end and loads of craft and food stalls in between. There is music the whole weekend.

We met Peggy and Lloyd there, friends from Austin Life #1, it was really good to see them again. We caught up, walked around the bridge for a while, then strolled up to the Cedar Door on Second for some drinks. Ended up staying there for quite a while as we chatted about life, the universe, aeroplanes, and everything. The bus took us home again as efficiently as it had brought us downtown, where we had a light supper and thence to bed.

Alan met one of our neighbours at 3am this morning after their monster thumping bass woke us up again. *@*&^£&^!!! The chap apologised and turned it off straight away. He didn't realise anyone had moved in next door so fair enough I suppose.

This morning, therefore, was a bit slow to start. We forced ourselves out for a run. It's so nice when you get encouragement from passing motorists - a biker gave us the Longhorns sign as we slogged along. Might have been my Longhorns-orange coloured shorts, however. In the UK, you'd be more likely to have people yelling derisory abuse at runners than encouraging them. This is one reason Alan wanted to come back here. Americans raise people up rather than running them down. There's even billboards here encouraging people to think positive!

After we got back and showered, we were a little late for a prearranged Skype call with some friends, but we hooked up OK. It was very cool to talk to them all in realtime video. Hi chaps and chapesses - you know who you are!

We went out again after that. Alan drove down to Rudy's Barbeque on 360 so we could have some breakfast tacos. The food of Kings! I had a sausage and egg one, and a potato and egg. Top them off with salsa and cheese. Yum.

Then I got in the driver's seat for some about-time-too driving practise. Drove down Mopac for a quick stop in Best Buy to have a nosey at some electronic gear, just to see what they had. Drove back up to the Barton Creek Mall. A nosey round there; found a kitchen shop. Bought a storage jar to keep our coffee fresh in. Drove to Whole Foods Market on 6th and Lamar for some shopping. It's Labor Day tomorrow so we don't think much will be open. Stocked up on tasty things. Drove home again and negotiated the multi-storey parking garage. Seems I do remember how to drive an automatic after all! We do need to read our Texas Driving Manual, however. And remember, what you observe people doing is not necessarily what it says in the book. Much the same as the UK there, then ;-)

We are off to a classical concert tonight; a present bought for Alan from Bryan and Marie. Thanks, guys. We are looking forward to it.


Friday, September 01, 2006

Second day

OK, the second day of our trying to sort things out.

We started with our second onslaught of the electric company. Armed with a copy of our lease, passports and 200 bucks, we trooped down to the office for the opening time of 07:45. In we went, and were seen promptly, courteously and efficiently. What a contrast to yesterday. Moral: Go to the electric company first thing in the morning, before they have got tired of the endless stream of people in their office.

Back to the ranch to do the inventory of the apartment. You know the drill, you have to make a note of all the deficiencies and defects so they don't charge you for them when you move out. This took a little while. We took it over to the office along with our shiny new electric account number.

Now it was shopping time. Alan had come across a mention of a shop called Eurway which sold good value modern-style furnishings, so we reckoned we would try it. On arrival, the shop was filled with plenty of shiny things. Much of the furniture was made of metal, glass, brightly painted bold colours etc. We wanted to try their viscoelastic mattresses. This we did, and ended up ordering a bed, mattress and two leather chairs which are due to arrive on Wednesday. Apart from the mattress which we have to wait three weeks for.

Onwards to Linens And Things, where we purchased some mugs, plates and cutlery. We need to eat, right?

Meanwhile, we spoke to Peggy and Lloyd, old friends of ours from when we lived in Austin last time. We are looking forward to seeing them again; hopefully tomorrow.

Round the corner to REI, one of the finest camping stores around. We were in search of mapping software for my GPS but they didn't have any. Alan bought me some sports clothing as a birthday pressie. Thanks, Alan :-)

Lunchtime rumbled around so we headed down to the nearest Thundercloud Subs, where they constructed a fine submarine roll each for us, which we enjoyed outside in the shade by some running water.

Next on to Geico, a motor insurance crowd. We had no idea how much auto insurance was gonig to cost so thought it best to find out before buying a car. Turns out that it's maybe a bit more expensive than in the UK, but not outrageously so. Very little of the final figure depends on the car you drive; you're mostly paying anti-suing clauses. Welcome to America!

Alan wanted to check out the VW Golf GTI so we stopped by the garage. There was one there to look at. Very smart but the car was sold, so we could not do more than sit in it.

Ever onwards, to Target this time, to buy bin liners. The excitement never stops!

South now, to Barton Square Mall and the Apple shop. We needed music, and it's at least six weeks until we get our hi-fi back. Apple stores sell small loudspeakers that you plug iPods directly into. This works a treat and now we have tunes :-)

Now we were shopped out. We had shopped until we dropped for about five hours. Bah! Back to the ranch again, unload the car, raid the fridge for beer. Yum. Necessary. Spent some time sorting out clothes, putting the washing on etc. Time for more beer; let's go out. One final foray for the day, on foot this time, down to Hyde Park Bar and Grill for some tasty food. We started with prawn spring rolls. Alan then had Southern fried chicken breast and I had swordfish for mains. Washed down with Shiner Bock and a local Pilsener.

Now we are back, it's only 20:46 but we're going to bed to read for a while. Partly because the few chairs we have been loaned are covered in clothes hung out to dry - we need a drying rack! - and partly because we are so tired. I do hope the bloke downstairs doesn't start with his drum and bass at 3am like he did last night. I could really do with a good night's sleep.

Tomorrow it is Batfest in Austin - apparently they close Congress bridge and fill it with bands. We will see what this entails. Watch this space...


Thursday, August 31, 2006

Arrival in Texas

Well, we made it to Austin. The flight was pleasantly uneventful. 10 hours to Dallas on a Boeing 777, then hang around for a while and 30 minutes to Austin on an MD-80. We arrived about 18:30 Austin time (GMT -6), got our hire car (a Chevy Cobalt) and drove to the apartment. Michele met us there as she had collected our keys earlier - the office was shut by the time we arrived. She had also put loads of food, beer and furniture - including a bed - into the apartment for us. What a star! That was so nice.

As I write, that was only last night. Seems like ages ago already. We have had a busy day trying to sort out things that need to be done.

Breakfast started with fruit from the fridge (thanks Michele!) followed by coffee and bagels at Quack's which was marvellous. Alan reckoned it was one of the best coffees he'd ever had.

First post-breakfast stop was the Cingular shop to try and get cellphones. Here is where the ol' social security number thing raised its head once more. To get a phone contract, you need a credit rating etc. To cut a long story short, we had to put down a hefty deposit on our contract. I also ended up having to get a new handset which was annoying. I have a lovely K750i phone which is triband, and Alan has a K800i which is the same but quad band. Guess which frequency Cingular uses? That's right, the one missing from the K750i. So I now have an LG CU500 flip phone which is about the best one Cingular had (without going to a full on smartphone organiser thing). It seems nice in its own right. It's a 3G one so it will be fast, but doesn't have the 2MP camera of the K750, or many of its customisable features. However at the end of the day I need to make and receive calls, so here we are.

Next, we went to the bank to change our address on our account. Simple enough, but after talking to the banker we ended up walking out with an upgraded account and various bells and whistles. So far so good.

Next stop was trying to get the electric sorted. Oh dear. Although the electric is on in our place, we have to get an account set up with Austin Energy ASAP as the apartment people won't stave them off forever. However nobody told us about the things they require to set up an account. Of course, naturally, without a social security number we can't set it up on the phone, so we have to trawl down to the office to do it in person. We eventually find this office - it's tucked away at the back of a community centre - and join the line. There's a big sign saying "All enquiries, join this line". After 30 minutes in this line, they rebuff us to join a different line. It would have been so nice if they'd told us this in the first place. This second line appears to be going precisely nowhere; nobody is seeing anyone in this line. Eventually a chap appears who checks everyone in the line - we're all trying to get new accounts. It turns out we need to show a copy of our apartment rental lease, $200 deposit and passports for each leaseholder (in the absence of other Texas ID). Quite what business the electric company has in knowing any of this stuff is beyond me. Surely it would be enough to provide an address and some money like everywhere else??? Needless to say, we left there in a less than cheerful mood.

Still, the day ended a little more positively. We managed to get some stuff for the house - pots, pans, ironing board, food, beer, shower curtain, coathangers etc. We got a good deal on the pans which was nice.

Light switches still work the wrong way here. They are upside down to us. We have a big fridge though with an ice maker on the front. We almost had a pet dragonfly which wandered in but proved too noisy, so got evicted. There's loads of them nearby, flying around the lake below our windows.

I'm rambling now so it's time to quit.


Monday, August 28, 2006


Just a quick update this time. We had our party at the Rugby Club on Saturday evening. It was actually really good; loads of friends turned up and it was great to see them again. Jill and Bobby couldn't make it but sent a fabulous cake for Alan's birthday, decorated with cars, aeroplanes and a signpost to Texas. It was an 80's night and those of us not living out of suitcases dressed accordingly, with some very mad costumes.

Early Sunday morning, Terry arrived and whisked me off to my last aviation event in the UK (for now, anyway). Alan stayed behind for a lazy day with Paul and Sarah. We headed north to Nottingham Tollerton airfield, where friends Steve and Andrew were at the fly-in there. About 120 aircraft showed up during the day. It was just very pleasant indeed to sit in the sun with friends surrounded by aircraft :-)

It's a bank holiday Monday today. We have timed this journey right as it's Labor Day in the States next week so we get two holidays in a row. We need to figure out what's going to fit in our cases and make a parcel to send ourselves tomorrow as we won't have room for everything. Tonight we are having a last gathering in the Masons' which will be very pleasant.

We're being picked up at 14:00 tomorrow by a car which will take us to Gatwick Holiday Inn. We'll stay there for one night so we can check in at sparrowfart a.m. the next morning before our flight. The next post should hopefully be written in Texas :-)

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

We have moved out

Well, it's the first time in over a week that I have had a few minutes to spare, a computer and an internet connection all at the same time.

Last week was hectic. Thursday and Friday, I was in Kemble with some chaps from work, setting up our company's stand at the PFA Rally. Throw in a burst trailer tyre, a burst radiator, a tent, rain, friendly pilots in the bar and plenty of aeroplanes and it makes for a busy 24 hours. I managed to get half an hour to get some aircraft photos but the rest of the time was spent on the stand. It was good fun but tiring.

I got back too late on Friday to join Alan and his folks for dinner, but they had a nice evening. We spent Saturday with them and Tracy and Paul in Ipswich. A walk along the harbour front and an afternoon's bowling, with Chinese for tea. Very pleasant.

Sunday saw me at Rougham for the airshow. Our friend Terry came along too. The show was very cool; lots of excellent aircraft. Some heavy showers caused great lighting conditions - bright sunlight on the aircraft, rendering them colourful against dark clouds behind. Then it was back to the Mason's for a curry evening. Yum :-)

We spent Monday trying to get things sorted in the house. Trying to bin stuff we didn't need, sort through clothes, take things to charity shops etc. How come it's so hard to give things away? You can't give electrical things away for love nor money. There's no point in us taking a lot of electrical items as they won't work in the US.

Tuesday and Wednesday saw the packers arrive; Nick and Andy, who did a sterling job packing up everything we own into boxes and bubble wrap. If it wasn't nailed down and you weren't quick enough, it got packed!

A big pile of boxes
Here's Nick with just one pile of our stuff. There was more in the front room and more upstairs.

On Thursday, a truck arrived at 09:00 with a 20-foot container on the back. Andy and Nick spent the morning loading the container. We were a little worried it wouldn't all fit in, but it did, with room to spare. So now everything we own is headed for Felixstowe, to be put onto a boat and sent across the water to Houston. We will see it again in six to eight weeks' time.

A container truck
The container truck pulls away with our things on board.

We spent the rest of Thursday cleaning the house and taking junk to the tip. Five trips, that took. In the peeing rain. We were so tired at the end of the day. We were left with our suitcases, which we took round to Paul and Sarah's house; friends who are kind enough to let us stay for a few days until we go to Gatwick on Tuesday. We had a few beers that night, some with John in the bar. They were very welcome!

Friday morning, we made one last trip to the house to check it over before the new people took it over. We left the keys inside and closed the door behind us. Bye, house. it's been a great few years.

Later, my parents arrived for a visit. They stayed in the Cannon Brewery. We spent the day moseying about town. We had to do various things like collect our cheque from the solicitors and put it in the bank. We had dinner in the Turkish place, Nazar; always good.

So now it is Saturday, my folks have gone home and we are trying to gear ourselves up for a party we are holding this evening. It's a joint bash with Kate and Mel for their's and Alan's birthdays, at the Rugby Club. We are pretty tired already but I'm sure it will be fine once we get there. We are looking forward to having a couple of days after this to recover before heading off again.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Jo finished work

I finished in the office today. It was kind of wierd; it felt like a normal day. I even went in early to make sure I got a bunch of stuff finished that I needed to do.

We all went out at lunchtime to a local village pub by the river Stour, called the Henny Swan, which was lovely. We enjoyed a fine lunch (steak, lemon sole, salmon, cheesecake, chocolate brownies etc - yum!)

My workmates were very generous and gave me a shiny new watch as a leaving present, along with some champagne and flowers. So nice :-) The watch is a cool surfers one which will find its home very well in Austin.

Now I have a couple of weeks off work to sort things out before we move. We are due to exhibit at a big aviation event next week so my work in the UK isn't done quite yet. Camping on airfields is always good though ;-)


Wednesday, August 09, 2006


It's been a while since the last update and that one was probably a little confused. It was written at the end of our trip to Austin, where we were househunting.

We found an apartment up on 45th Street, so it's nicely downtown and within reach of plenty of shops/bars/entertainment. Cool.

So we returned home to the UK and got on with selling our house. This was achieved in 10 days of putting it on the market! OK, it's not actually completed yet, but the new people have been round to measure for curtains etc...

We've come upon the issue of the Social Security Number (SSN) already, even though we're not living in the US yet. Everything revolves around it. We are meant to have electricity connected before they will give us the keys to the new apartment. Alan phoned the electric company and they told us we can't have it without the SSN unless we turn up in person wielding our passports (and visas) for ID. Luckily the apartment people will let us in but we have to go round to the electric company the next morning after we arrive to sort it out.

We got our visas last Wednesday. Went down to London, picked up our paperwork, took it to the US Embassy and waited in line for the requisite four hours or so. They have given us 5-year visas, so we are happy :-)

Now we are in the process of starting to cancel everything in the UK. Phones, electric, gas, roadside assistance, doctors, dentists, direct debits, credit cards, using up our store card points etc etc...

The shipping people have been round to evaluate our stuff for packing. They think it will take almost three days to pack it all! We get a 20-foot container all to ourselves. That's going to be fun.

So now we have to sort everything we own into various piles: Taking on the plane, air freight, sea freight, giving away, charity shop and The Tip. Joy.

Still, it'll be worth it.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Three years ago, Alan and I spent six months in Austin, TX.

Now here we are in 2006 and we're moving back to Austin! This time, it's for a while longer.

I'm writing this while we wait for the plane to take us to Dallas. Then we will get on another plane to take us home to the UK. Only, it won't be home for much longer. In six weeks time, we'll make the return journey.

Now we have the fun of packing up our entire house and making friends with the shipping people...